Harlem citizens were greeted in the July newsletter with a notice that city officials violated a federal drinking water requirement by failing to monitor and test for total coliform in December of 2011.
The letter from the city reads:
“We are required to monitor your drinking water for specific contaminants on a regular basis. Results of regular monitoring are an indicator of whether or not our drinking water meets health standards. During the compliance period of Dec. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011, we did not complete all monitoring or testing for total coliform and therefore cannot be sure of the quality of your drinking water during that time.”
Although city officials claim that they are now meeting all requirements by turning in samples and are meeting required drinking water standards, it is appalling that the most basic of human needs – fresh, potable drinking water – apparently can’t be trusted in the hands of the people who are designated to serve and meet the needs of citizens.
According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the total coliforms test for fecal coliforms and E.Coli is the most basic test for bacterial contamination of a water supply. The total coliform rule is a federal regulation which establishes regulation for microbiological contaminants in drinking water. These contaminants can cause health problems. While most of the strains of coliform bacteria are innocuous, the species of E. Coli known as O157:H7 produces a dangerous, even deadly poison. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates this bacteria kills around 60 people annually, and infection affects more than 70,000 people per year who contract the bacteria from contaminated food and water.
For this reason, it is especially important to maintain safe standards and rigorous testing of public water systems. There is no excuse whatsoever to fail to perform these tests, especially when the health of citizens depends on it.
To top it off, the fact that it took nearly seven months for the public to be made aware of this situation is absolutely irresponsible and negligent on behalf of the city. After the Euchee Creek scandal, where Harlem’s former director of public works was convicted on three federal violations of the Clean Water Act, the city gave adamant assurance that their facility was now better run. Shame on Harlem’s officials for reneging on their promise to citizens.